Buy: Tabletop accessories
I never leave a dining tabletop unadorned. If you only have a couple of hundred dollars to spare, refresh your space with live plants and tabletop accessories. Here are some of my favourite decorating ideas:
- Use a tray to corral loose items on the table, such as coasters, condiments (e.g. salt and pepper), and napkins. I am partial to capiz shell trays for their elegance and organic touch.
- Add a tall plant to draw the eye upwards – this helps the space feel less heavy. If your budget allows, invest in a pot of white orchids, which require very little maintenance. The flowers also last for months! If you have a black thumb, consider faux greenery – there are some high quality alternatives available now that look just like the real thing. If you’re into the current jungalow (jungle-bungalow aka treehouse) trend you can opt to just use leaves instead of flowers.
- Consider a tall vessel for your greenery. I like to use glass or something reflective because dining tables are often made of wood and require lighter elements to balance the heavy material.
Adding a rug in a high-traffic area like the dining room can be incredibly inexpensive if you use indoor/outdoor rugs. It’s also very functional if you have pets or young children. I like to use these rugs because their sheer visual weight can dramatically change the feel of a space. The downside, though, is that many of these indoor/outdoor rugs are more modern – they’re often available in brighter colours and contemporary patterns like chevron prints.
If your dining room is decorated in a more formal style, skip the indoor/outdoor rug and look for a lightweight cotton rug. Bear in mind that these rugs will require more maintenance and are not suited to homes with young children (lest they spill food on the rug).
If your pockets are a little deeper and your walls a little bare, add art to embellish the space! Art instantly elevates a space and infuses it with personality. The usual design rules apply: ensure the works are hung correctly and in line with the room’s overall colour scheme. You can also think of your art as an accent piece if your furniture pieces are tightly edited to a consistent colour palette.
If you live in a small apartment or have a particularly dark dining room, consider an oversized mirror over artwork. Mirrors open up a space by reflecting light, and also add visual depth to an otherwise small space (thus giving the illusion of an even larger room).
I like to use mirrors that are framed – frameless mirrors are often cheaper but can feel unfinished and too ‘flat’ against the wall.
There are plenty of inexpensive mirror options – the Stockholm Mirror from Ikea is one of my favourites for apartments. It’s not too large and has a modern, circular frame. Importantly, the mirror also adds depth with its wooden frame.
I will always include ambient lighting when given the opportunity! Ambient light is important to any space because it has a warm, soft glow unlike ceiling light. This glow is what makes a space feel cosy and inviting.
More formal arrangements call for a pair of identical lamps, but I have also styled homes (with a more formal dining room) with only one table lamp. The trick is to balance the lamp with an item of equal visual weight on the other end of the sideboard.
If you don’t have a sideboard in your dining space, you can either bring in a floor lamp or even replace your current lamp. I love hanging pendant lamps in the dining room – they are often very simple fixtures but so dramatic. The trick is to ensure the pendants hang low enough to give the proper lighting, but high enough so they don’t obscure the vision of your guests or impede the serving of food. You also want to watch for head height if you have a smaller table – otherwise you risk bumping your head every time you get up from the table.
Tip: If your home has no space to accommodate additional lighting solutions in the dining space, consider non-scented candles around the table during a dinner party. The flickering glow of the candles will impart softness without taking up much space.
Want to go all out with your dining room overhaul? Consider these other options:
- Dark and heavy dining table sets are probably the most common issue homeowners deal with. If your budget allows, consider trading your current dining table for one with a sleeker profile. Dark wood is not necessarily a bad option in a small space, but it does require a sleeker profile to work. Otherwise the space feels enclosed and heavy.
- Don’t feel like you need to buy matching dining table sets. Feel free to mix and match with other chairs – in the previous example you can see we used two different types of chairs at the dining table. If you often entertain, consider a dining bench instead of chairs. The low profile of the bench is also less heavy and can help to visually open up the space.
- If you have the space, consider a sideboard. Sideboards help to hide clutter, and every stylist will tell you having extra storage space is never a bad thing. Use the sideboard to keep spare table linens and serving ware.
- Bring in other pieces of furniture. Remember: your dining room is an extension of your living space, so don’t treat it as a closed-off utilitarian room. Bookshelves, sideboards, bar carts, and even armchairs will ensure a smoother spatial flow into the space.
Which of these tips are you going to try? Let us know in the Comments section, or post a photo once you’re done.